An ongoing series of events dedicated to enhancing grass-fed livestock production
SFA is committed to advancing grass-fed livestock production in the Upper Midwest, and we do this through our ongoing GrazeFest series.
SFA is dedicated to improving education and awareness of the benefits of pasture techniques within our farmer-to-farmer network. We do that in a variety of ways:
- We launched our new Midwest Soil Health Summit to address the growing evidence that cover cropping and livestock integration principles can be both profitable and scalable.
- Our series of Pasture Profitability Field Days and on-farm events give farmers real-world knowledge from field experts and practicing farmers.
- We hold grazing-based education at our SFA Annual Conference, including the Advanced Grazing Workshop in 2013 that paved the way for the Midwest Soil Health Summit.
- Our new Keep Cattle in Minnesota project, in conjunction with NRCS, will work to sustain Minnesota’s beef and dairy industries and environment.
- SFA is the lead sponsor for the Grazing Lands Conservation Association’s annual Videoconference, to be held at locations around Minnesota Dec. 5, 2013.
- Our yearly farm-and-food session at the Mill City Farmers Market spreads information about grass-based farming and grassfed meat preparation to a consumer audience.
For questions regarding our GrazeFest series, contact SFA Livestock and Grazing Specialist Kent Solberg at 218.445.7580 or sevenpinesfarm andfence@ gmail.com.
SFA Hosting Midwest Soil Health Summit Feb. 19-20, 2014, in Alexandria, Minn.
Registration is now open for SFA’s inaugural Midwest Soil Health Summit, to be held Feb. 19-20, 2014, at Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria. The Summit will convene some of the most innovative farmers and researchers in the Upper Midwest for two days of networking, speakers, panel discussions and breakout sessions – all geared at improving the health of your soil.
The keynote speaker will be Gabe Brown of Brown’s Ranch in Burleigh County, N.D. Brown is a pioneer in diverse cover cropping, having used no-till techniques for two decades. His family ranch encompasses 5,400 acres, all managed sustainably and with the goal of building ideal soil health conditions. His pesticide-free cover and companion crop system has allowed the Browns to reduce
their use of commercial fertilizer by over 90 percent and the use of herbicides by over 75 percent as well as increase production and profitability.
Kent Solberg, SFA Livestock and Grazing Coordinator, will be leading a session on designing and customizing cover crops.
Wendy Taheri, Research Microbiologist with the North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, will present on cover cropping and mycorrhizae in soils.
Additional speakers will be announced soon.
Cost is $100 for current SFA members and $150 for non-members. Click here to register.
SFA GrazeFest Demonstrates Cattle Watering, Fencing and More at Wellspring Farms
Thirty-six people gathered Aug. 10 at Wellspring Farms near Aitkin, Minn., to discuss high-density grazing, soil health, and fence and cattle watering systems at an SFA GrazeFest Pasture Walk event. Wellspring Farms, owned and operated by Joe and Barbara Gans and Brad and Sarah Kucera, produces eggs, chicken, maple syrup and vegetables in high tunnels and recently added cattle to the operation.
The farmers are building a herd of Irish Dexter cattle and custom graze 25 Angus cow/calf pairs. At the GrazeFest event, they discussed their use of “The Mule” fiberglass energized fence system. Also, Kent Solberg, SFA Livestock and Grazing Specialist, demonstrated installation of the corner brace. Wellspring also recently installed a Frost-Free Nose Pump developed in Alberta, Canada. The nose pump will facilitate cattle outwintering to help build soil fertility and serve as an emergency water source in the event of an extended power outage – like one Wellspring Farm recently experienced.
Tom Gervais and Scott Kittelson of the NRCS discussed soil health in relation to land management practices such as high-density grazing. Their rainfall simulator provided a graphic example of how various soil management practices can influence the ability of the soil to handle a heavy rain event. Maintaining good soil structure has a dramatic impact on the ability of soil to absorb and retain rainfall.
Participants also were able to see Wellspring Farms pasture poultry pens and the positive impact they have on soil fertility, their poultry processing facility, and the portable chicken coop.
Click here to download SFA’s new Cover Crop Fact Sheet, a one-page guide to the basics of cover cropping by SFA Livestock and Grazing Coordinator Kent Solberg. Learn the basics of cover cropping, view examples of major crop types, and find Kent’s recommended resources.
Like this Fact Sheet? Email SFA Communications Coordinator Jason Walker and tell him you want to see more like this. Also, scroll down the page for additional resources.
News and Past Events
SFA returns to Mill City Farmers Market
SFA’s Jason Walker and Libby Wyrum were at the Mill City Farmers Market on June 29, 2013, talking with patrons and networking with farmer vendors.
SFA’s “Maven of Mmmm,” Mary Jane Miller (right), was also on hand cooking with market-fresh ingredients and demonstrating with market staff how to prepare deviled eggs.
Mill City Farmers Market has been a longtime supporter of SFA and our GrazeFest series, helping us spread the word about the positive impact of grass-fed livestock production. This terrifically diverse farmers market takes place Saturdays during market season at 704 S 2nd St in the plaza between the Mill City Museum and the Guthrie Theater. Look for us to return to the market in June 2014!
SFA graziers, take notice of the following announcement: State Wetland Restoration Funds Set Up to Help Farmers
The MN Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) has approx. $5 million allocated for restoring drained and partially drained marginal fields (click here for more information). These grants are based on the following regional locations: West Central, up to and including Norman and Mahnomen counties; Central, up to southern Crow Wing and Aitken; Southwest, including parts of Le Sueur, Waseca, and Freeborn counties; and all of the metro counties.
If you prefer speaking directly to a person (instead of navigating the State agency website) call Beth Markhart at 651.203.6019 for a simple, straightforward explanation of what this program means for you and your land. Beth has over 20 years of experience with restoring wetlands and other natural resources in Minnesota. As BWSR has prioritized the restoration of ‘less wet’ wet prairies and meadows, Beth can discuss with you the feasibility of restoring these specific areas on your land for payment and also using them for mob grazing or other activities. Most importantly, this program does not require you to do the restoration yourself!
Minnesota Dairy Initiative is here to help
The Minnesota Dairy Initiative is a program that promotes a healthy and vibrant dairy industry in Minnesota. SFA is a project partner with MDI; to learn more, click here.
For coverage of past GrazeFest events, including our 2012 series of Pasture Profitability Field Days, visit our GrazeFest Archive.
For more information on grass-fed beef, visit the following sites:
- Click this link for American Grassfed’s A Meat Terminology Primer for Consumers.
- Click this link for Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Grazing Cover Crops Fact Sheet (2013)
Contacts for Sustainable Farming Association:
Kent Solberg, Livestock & Grazing Specialist
18618 Co. Rd.23
Verndale, MN 56481
Jason Walker, Communications Coordinator
4924 Upton Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55410